The Road Trip Planning Guide gives you ideas to prepare for the best car vacation trips with your friends or family. For years, families have taken to the road to enjoy time together, see new places and to visit friends and family. In recent years, traveling by car has become more popular than ever. This is largely due to 9/11 and a sluggish economy-both events have changed the ways in which we take vacations.
In the time that’s elapsed since 9/11, we’ve seen a number of changes happen in the air travel industry that contribute to the popularity of passenger vehicle travel:
- Four of the country’s largest airline carriers have filed for bankruptcy;
- Airline tickets rose along with higher fuel prices;
- Many daily flights were canceled by the airlines and the wait to get through security at the airport made travel by plane more difficult and time-consuming;
- Airlines cut back on extras, providing a la carte meals for a fee or eliminating meals altogether on flights;
- Airlines have started switching to “early bird” pre-dawn flights to avoid flight traffic, to the dismay of many travelers.
In addition, recent Airline Quality Rating Reports published by the U.S. Department of Transportation report that the continued rise of delayed or cancelled flights, airline passengers bumped from flights and lost luggage are all factors that contribute to a general dissatisfaction with flying and a renewed appreciation for passenger vehicle travel.
Factor in the time needed for an advance airport arrival, the wait to go through security and the time to pick up baggage and a rental car, not to mention unexpected flight delays, and it’s easy to understand why so many people decide that some of the best family vacation trips can be taken in the car.
Some fast facts about passenger vehicle travel from the Travel Industry of America, a non-profit organization that reports on U.S. travel:
- Road travel is on an upswing, with Americans opting to vacation in their cars, RVs and by bus, too;
- Baby Boomers (ages 40-60) spend the most amount of time traveling and take longer trips than any other age group;
- U.S. travelers like to stay close to home, opting for regional travel most of the time;
- Americans enjoy visiting attractions that are historical, cultural or nature-based, including visiting a beach or a state park to camp;
- More people use the Web to plan a driving trip now than ever before.
In addition, travel agency managers surveyed in 2007 indicated that they saw a steady increase in families traveling with children. In addition to traveling to see events like festivals or attractions like state fairs, families like to visit friends and extended family when they travel, too.
Clearly, Americans often take road trips instead of flying because they’re hassle-free. It may take longer to get where you’re going, but you’ll spend the time admiring the views and stopping at interesting or fun destinations instead of standing in lines. Taking the time to plan for your driving trip can also help ensure that you avoid expensive delays while you’re on the road.
Suggestions from the Road Trip Planning Guide for the best car vacation trip:
The best family vacation trip can quickly go awry if something goes wrong with your vehicle. Have your car or truck checked out when you’re planning your driving trip. If you need new tires, brakes or an oil change, don’t put it off- complete any vehicle maintenance before you leave. Driving for extended periods of time can be hard on your vehicle, and any preparation that you can do before you drive can help make your trip safe and worry-free. “A month before we leave, we make an appointment to bring our car into the garage,” says Anthony Pierpont of St. Paul, Minnesota. “I just explain we’re planning a road trip, and ask if there’s anything we should do before we leave. Sometimes, we don’t have to do anything, because we get regular maintenance on the cars already. But, once or twice, it’s been the right time to get new brakes or new tires. Your mechanic’s inspection should include checking your vehicle’s fluid levels, brakes, air conditioning and heat and the wear and tear on your tires. Make sure you give your garage ample time to inspect your vehicle and complete any needed repairs before you go.”
The Best Road Trip Planning Guide recommends that you join an auto club to make it the best- and safest- car vacation trip for you and your family. Auto clubs provide hassle-free towing and some on-the-road repair service for a small annual fee. Buying a new tire or replacing your battery without spending the afternoon in a garage is a worthwhile benefit when you join an auto club. In addition, clubs have widespread agreements with towing companies, so if you do need a tow, you can usually get picked up fairly quickly, get your vehicle serviced, and get back on the road right away. “We think everyone should join an auto club before they travel,” says Catherine Woods of Mobulls dog breeders in West Plains, Missouri. “We accidentally let our club membership lapse one year. Luckily, just before we left we remembered to call and renew the membership, because we ended up needing a tow and a new battery on the trip!”
Learn More about Where to Go with the Best Road Trip Planning Guide.
Deciding where to go is half the fun of taking a family road trip. Even if you’re visiting family or friends, you can make your vacation special by finding unique places to stop along the way. Our readers have pitched in to give you tips and information to help you plan your driving trip.
Some of Our Readers’ Best Road Trips Include:
- Pacific Northwest road trips from San Francisco, California to the Oregon Coast and Washington;
- Plan a road trip through Montana and South Dakota for a sense of the Wild West and a firsthand view of Mount Rushmore, and Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks;
- Northern and Southern California road trips offer coastline beauty, The Redwood Forest, golf, artist colonies, history and wine;
- The best road trip back east includes Cape Cod, the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, and Stowe, Vermont;
- A grab-bag of favorite road trips includes the Keys in Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Washington State.
Find ideas for planning the best car vacation trip, with tips on creative activities for your children and ideas for packing lots of healthy snacks too.
Preparing and planning for your driving trip takes time and energy, but it’s worth it in the long run. You’ll make family vacation memories that last a lifetime… when you take a road trip together!
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Want to Travel More? Consider Travel Incentive Programs
If you ever are interested in getting to know America by plane rather than by car, consider participating in a travel incentives program.
The best ones provide quality travel incentives to businesses as a way to build business. Consumers benefit greatly from travel incentive programs because they are the target of the business (they would like you to become their customer) and, as a result, are offered tremendously low cost travel packages in exchange for participation in a business’ marketing incentive program.
Incentives that businesses will offer consumers can be (almost free) hotel and flight packages to places like Las Vegas, Reno, Hawaii, Tahoe, San Diego, San Francisco, Orlando and Mexico.
The sponsoring business’ incentive program will ask you to do things like test drive a car, visit their restaurant, go to an open house, apply for a credit card, or listen to a timeshare presentation.